National Consumers League

National Consumers League calls on United Airlines to halt introduction of 'Basic Economy' fare

December 7, 2016

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC -- The National Consumers League, the nation’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today called on United Airlines to heed the concerns of passenger advocates and policymakers and halt its plans to introduce its “Basic Economy” fare class. Rules for the new fare class, scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2017, will prevent customers from bringing carry-on baggage on flights, requiring more flyers to pay onerous baggage fees. In addition, “Basic Economy” tickets will come with no guarantee that families will be able to sit together nor allow passengers to know ahead of their flights where their seats are located on an aircraft.

The following statement if attributable to John Breyault, National Consumers League vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud: 

In a competitive marketplace, airlines would be falling over themselves to offer consumers the most perks at the lowest price. Instead, we have the major U.S. airlines engaging in a race to the bottom to see who can offer the worst service at the highest profit margin. This is the textbook definition of market failure. United’s draconian “Basic Economy” fare cannot be seen as anything other than the beginning of a slippery slope that will pressure the other legacy airlines -- who control 80% of domestic flights and are enjoying record profits -- to follow suit. Flyers and policymakers should make no mistake that today’s “Basic Economy” fare will almost certainly be service level that many, if not most of us may soon be forced to endure, whether we’re United customers or not. United should heed the concerns of a diverse coalition of flyers rights advocates and senior members of Congress and halt the introduction of its “Basic Economy” fare class.

Earlier this year, NCL joined with a broad coalition of public interest and business travel groups in calling on Congress to pass the FAIR Fees Act; consumer protection legislation that would prohibit airlines from charging cancellation, baggage or other ancillary fees that are “unreasonable or disproportional” to the costs incurred by the air carrier. Given United’s actions, the need for such common-sense rules -- which received bipartisan support -- appears greater than ever.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.